Despite taking the loss Monday night, A.J. Burnett turned in another quality start for a Pirates rotation that appears to be on the upswing.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In a weeklong reversal after a four-game slide, the Pirates' most recent turn through the starting rotation helped them maintain position in the National League Central.
The past seven Pirates starters entering Monday produced a 5-0 record and a 2.64 ERA. Six of those seven starts, against the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, resulted in Pirates wins, so they entered the week tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead.
In the five starts before the Texas series, the starters compiled a 10.12 ERA in 182/3 innings.
"We kept the ball in the spots we wanted to keep the ball in," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We were able to pitch both sides of the plate. We were able to use secondary pitches in offensive counts. We stayed down better than up."
The rotation has a 3.53 ERA this season, fifth best in the majors. It has buoyed an offense that ranks 10th in the NL with 3.89 runs per game.
A four-game series against the Cubs helped. Three of the four games in the losing streak came against the Cardinals, who lead the NL in runs scored and hit .328 with runners in scoring position. The Cubs, meanwhile, rank last in the majors with a .220 average with men in scoring position -- one spot behind the Pirates -- and rank 12th in the NL in runs scored.
"The fact that you are dealing with different lineups played into it a little bit, as well," Hurdle said.
Minor league awards
The Pirates named outfielder Andrew Lambo and right-hander Tyler Glasnow their minor league player and pitcher of the year, respectively.
"To be rated for the player of the year for this organization is a very big honor, and I'm very happy and grateful for it," Lambo said.
Lambo, 25, hit 32 homers in 501 plate appearances between Class AA Altoona and Class AAA Indianapolis this season. He finished the minor league season with a .922 on-base plus slugging percentage and is now on the active roster.
"My focus whenever I'm hitting is trying to hit the ball all around to the whole field," Lambo said. "That's definitely my strength. The power numbers this year were awesome. It was great."
Glasnow, 20, struck out 164 batters in 1111/3 innings at low-Class A West Virginia. In his first year with a full-season affiliate, the 6-foot-7 Glasnow, a fifth-round pick out of high school in the 2011 draft, compiled a 2.18 ERA.
"The main thing, even if it was uncomfortable to throw, I really had to throw my changeup to get the game reps," Glasnow said. "I think that really helped a lot this year, forcing me to throw it."
MLB named Andrew McCutchen the Pirates' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who best represents baseball via sportsmanship and community service.
"It's great to be wearing a Pirate uniform, representing the Pirates, knowing that I'm the nominee for it means a lot," McCutchen said. "It means that I'm trying to do everything I can to help the community.
"I'll not only be worried about this uniform and playing on the field, but doing things outside off the field as well."
Justin Morneau is the Minnesota Twins' nominee despite being traded to the Pirates at the end of August.